Our beautiful Sonoran desert provides an enviable lifestyle full of many outdoor activities to share and enjoy with your pets. However, it is important to remember that the desert also contains predators that can pose a threat to domestic animals. Whether a newcomer to the Valley or a long-time native, it benefits us all to be educated, informed and practice desert pet safety.
Many desert predators such as coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions wander from the wild and can be spotted in the city along washes and alleys. These intelligent creatures often prey on domestic pets whether provoked or not.
Javelinas are basically “wild pigs” of the desert ranging from 35-60 pounds. They aren’t carnivores and can seem quite harmless, but they are capable of inflicting severe injuries to pets. Javelinas startle easily and will attack when feeling threatened.
Predatory birds include hawks and owls. There are many reports of these flying predators swooping into yards and capturing animals as large as 25 pounds.
Because desert snakes can lunge up to half their body length and it is difficult to determine on sight if it is poisonous, you should consider all snakes dangerous to you and your pets. Never let a pet approach any snake out of curiosity and make sure any snake bite is treated medically as quickly as possible. If your pet is at risk for rattlesnake bites, El Dorado Animal Hospital does offer a rattlesnake vaccine to help decrease the reaction to the bite. We also have antivenin for treatment in case of rattlesnake bites.
Scorpion stings and spider bites are typically not serious, but can be dangerous to our pets (watch for sudden vomiting and/or diarrhea as well as strange behavioral changes.) To prevent pet encounters with these creatures, clean up rock and brush piles from your home and do not allow your pet to dig under rocks. If your pet is stung, apply ice to the area and seek medical help for further advice and monitoring.
The Colorado River Toad, or Bufo toad, is usually dormant in the winter and prefers the warm wet weather, so they are often active during monsoon season. This toad secretes a toxic substance from the skin that causes convulsions and arrhythmias. If your dog licks this toad it is best to gently rinse the mouth well with water right away and for about 5 minutes. Once the toxins are rinsed away, generally clinical signs do not occur. If your dog is showing signs already, they must go to the vet to be treated.
What to do? Protect your pets by using knowledge and common sense. Never approach any wild creatures whether with your pet or not. Always keep dogs leashed on walks and hikes. Doggie doors should fit the opening at both the top and the bottom, or better yet don’t allow your dogs to go in and out doggie doors unsupervised. Cats are best protected indoors and should not be allowed to roam freely outside for long periods of time. Most importantly, give wild animals space and let them be.
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Fountain Hills, AZ 85268
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